Coaching Options Who Could Save the Sacramento Kings
After being mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the Sacramento Kings will be watching the NBA playoffs for the seventh straight year. If the Kings don't want that streak to extend to eight, they'll likely have to do it with a new head coach.
Keith Smart, the team's current coach, hasn't had the best tenure with the team. Then again, Smart is the Kings' fifth coach in the last seven years. So it's clear all of the blame can't be put on Smart, or the head coach, whoever he may be, because nobody seems to be able to turn things around.
Still, one has to think the right candidate could go a long way in getting this team on the right track. Sacramento may not have the most talented bunch in the NBA, but it should be better than the on-court results given the composition of its roster. It's just a matter of selecting the right coach.
There are plenty of solid options out there looking for a job. And considering that the team is very likely to have new, deep-pocketed owners, regardless of where it resides, it could be the type of job that attracts some qualified candidates. Speaking of which, here are some coaching options that could save the Sacramento Kings.
More than likely, Smart will be gone after the season. I'm basing this mainly on the fact the team's very likely to have new ownership, regardless of where it resides, that will want to start fresh with a new coach. Furthermore, it's not like Smart has a sparkling resume during his tenure.
Yet it should be pointed out that Smart's time with the Kings hasn't been as bad as most outsiders think. While the team's record certainly isn't good, it's .365 winning percentage is actually better than anything the Kings have posted in the past four years.
The Kings have also made considerable improvements as the year's gone on, especially on the offensive end. After going 19-35 pre-All-Star break (.351 winning percentage), they've gone 8-12 since (.400 winning percentage), including 8-8 in the last 16 games. The team also went from averaging 96.8 points before the break to 108.4 after.
Ultimately, Smart's .361 win percentage in 255 games as an NBA head coach, coupled with a new ownership, will likely be too much to overcome.
But he has made some strides in a difficult situation, with turmoil surrounding the potential relocation, a weak and absent ownership group and an extremely talented yet frustrating player in DeMarcus Cousins.
He should be commended for his efforts, even if this is his final year with the team.
Nate McMillan's had a pretty strong tenure as head coach in the NBA. He's worked for two different organizations, the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers, and has had success in both locations.
McMillan started his head-coaching career with the Sonics in 2000-01. He led the team to a 38-29 record after taking over for Paul Westphal midway through the campaign. Seattle posted a 45-37 record the next year and went to the postseason.
He finished his tenure in the Emerald City on a high note, coaching the team to a 52-30 record and the second round of the 2004-05 playoffs.
McMillan jumped to Portland after his contract expired with Seattle following 2004-05. His first year in Portland was pretty bad, with the team going 21-61. Yet he followed that up with improvements to 32-50 and 41-41. By 2008-09, the Blazers were back in the playoffs for three straight years.
He was fired after last season and is not coaching right now. He would be a good hire for the Kings because he's had success, having reached the postseason five times, and he knows the Pacific Division well from his 930 games as a head coach in it.
Unlike the other names on this list, Michael Malone doesn't have experience as a head coach in the NBA. What Malone does have, however, is a 10 years of NBA experience as an assistant coach on some pretty successful teams.
He was an assistant coach with the Cavs for five years. During that time, the Cavs went 272-138 and went to five straight postseasons.
From there, he went to the New Orleans Hornets, serving as the lead assistant in 2010-11. That team made serious defensive improvements under Malone and qualified for the playoffs after missing the previous year.
Most recently, Malone has worked with the Golden State Warriors. He's the lead assistant on Mark Jackson's staff. Golden State missed the postseason in 2011-12, but it's well on its way to the its first playoff appearance since 2006-07.
The Warriors also went from 27th in defensive rating (109.1) during his first season as coach, to 14th (105.5). in 2012-13.
With the Kings currently ranked 29th at 111.3, Malone would be a good option to bring in and turn around the defense. He's got a track record of success, he's paid his dues after 10 years as an assistant and he's spent the last two years working in the Pacific division.
Mo Cheeks could be a solid option for the Kings. He doesn't have as much head-coaching success as most of the other candidates, but Cheeks has guided two different organizations to the postseason.
He spent three-plus seasons with Portland, leading the team to back-to-back playoff appearances in his first two years on the job. He then went on to the 76ers and took Philadelphia to the postseason in 2007-08, before being dismissed midway through 2008-09.
Since then, Cheeks has been an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His time with a winning organization like OKC, coupled with his experience as a head coach, would make Cheeks a decent candidate.
He knows what it takes to be a successful head coach, but he's also had time to step back and reflect on what he might do differently if given another shot.
It's tough to evaluate Avery Johnson as a head coach. Because of that, it's difficult to know whether he'd be a good candidate with the Kings.
Judging solely on the numbers, Johnson could be a good fit. He has a .577 winning percentage as a head coach in 440 games. He's also led his teams to the postseason on four separate occasions. Johnson even took the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA Finals in 2005-06.
However, Johnson's Mavericks were knocked out of the playoffs by the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors in 2006-07, despite his team posting the best regular-season record in the NBA.
Just a few years later, Dallas won an NBA championship with Rick Carlisle as head coach and did so with a roster featuring many of the same players that Johnson had coached.
Avery also went on to coach two-plus years with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets. His teams did get better every year, going from a .293 winning percentage to .333, and to eventually a .500 record after 28 games this season.
But Johnson was dismissed and the Nets have gone 28-17 since P.J. Carlesimo took over as head coach.
So while Johnson's had some success as a head coach, it's somewhat troubling that his teams tend to do better after he leaves. Still, he could be worth considering for Sacramento.
Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy would be an ideal candidate for the Kings. For one, Van Gundy has one of the strongest resumes of any coach on the market not named Phil Jackson or Jerry Sloan.
In fact, you could argue the two "blemishes" on his record aren't even his fault. He was poached from the Miami job after 21 games in 2005-06, this despite posting an 11-10 record, by team president Pat Riley, who came down from the front office to guide Miami to an NBA title.
Then last season, even with the Dwight Howard debacle, which wasn't created by Van Gundy, he still led the Magic to a 37-29 record and a playoff berth.
What's not to like? Van Gundy's been above .500 every year. He's guided his teams to the postseason during every full season he's coached. He even took the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals.
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